Real Madrid bests Panathinaikos in clash of Group A titans
Real Madrid got big games from three of its biggest stars to hold off an impressive new-look Panathinaikos 85-78 at the Community of Madrid Sports Palace in the Spanish capital on Friday night. Rudy Fernandez scored 23 points, Nikola Mirotic tallied 18 points and 8 rebounds and Sergio Llull was good for 15 points and 4 assists to lead Los Blancos. Madrid rode Fernandez to a 12-2 start, but the Greens never folded and former MVP Dimitis Diamantidis’s triple in the closing seconds of the first half made it 35-44 at the break. Mirotic came alive after a slow start with 6 points in an 11-0 run as the hosts came back. It was a 1-point game entering the fourth quarter and stayed close till the end, but with strong crowd support, Madrid hung on for the win. Sofoklis Schortsanitis was 9 for 9 from the field for 23 points for Panathinaikos. Diamantidis finished with 13 points and 6 assists, veteran Kostas Tsartsaris netted 10 as did Andy Panko in his Euroleague debut.
First quarter: Madrid starts fast, PAO catches up
It took Madrid only seconds to grab the lead as Marcus Slaughter batter the opening tip towards Fernandez, who darted to the hoop for a slam. The Fernandez show lasted for several minutes as the wingman drained a pair of three and rose for a block at the other end too. Los Blancos held the Greens scoreless for over three minutes before Schortsanitis came off the bench to score in the paint. After A Llull layup and a Panathinaikos timeout, Rudy dunked to make it a 10-point game. Big Sofo remained Panathinaikos’s chief weapon and added 2 from the line before Panko took a pass from Diamantidis for his first Euroleague points. But Madrid rolled on as Slaughter threw down a monster alley-oop and Llull connected from downtown to make it 19-6. Back-to-back Diamantidis triples kept the Greens afloat. And then Jonas Maciulis stole the ball from Mirotic and coasted in for a slam. The Panathinaikos run continued as Schortsanitis scored 2 more from the line and Panko fed Tsartsaris for a slam that cut the deficit to 19-18. Felipe Reyes finally ended a Madrid scoring drought with a follow basket-plus-foul and the hosts held a 22-20 lead after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Sofo, Tsartsaris help Greens take charge
A Mike Bramos jumper knotted the score early in the second quarter. Sergio Rodriguez sliced through the Green defense for a layup, but Roko Ukic matched him with a floater. Tsartsaris made a lefty layup to give Panathinaikos its first lead, 24-26, two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter. Sofo increased the lead to 26-30. Rudy added 2 from the line, but Panko hit back for the visitors. Mirotic sank a jumper to make it a 1-point game, however Schortsanitis and Tsartsaris – the latter from downtown – lifted Panathinaikos again. Fernandez got the crowd back into the game with a wild fastbreak layup-plus-foul. Dontaye Draper came in, got to the line and made it 35-37. Still the hosts had no answer for Big Sofo. A technical foul on Llull led to 2 Derwin Kitchen free throws and a 6-point edge. Diamantidis silenced the crowd with a triple in the closing seconds of the half to make it 35-44.
Third quarter: Mirotic heats up as Madrid roars back
Fernandez got to the line just 11 seconds into the second half and sent Maciulis to the bench with 3 fouls. Panko was in the right place at the right time for an easy layup. Llull got the crowd cheering with a triple and Draper came through with a steal and layup to close within 42-46. Mirotic was active on the glass and earned 2 free throws before rejecting Tsartsaris on the defensive end. Mirotic knotted the game from the line and then followed up Llull’s missed layup with a tip-in to cap an 11-0 run and put the hosts up 48-46. After a timeout, Panko tied it only to see a red-hot Mirotic answer. Schortsanitis came off the bench to score a pair of quick baskets and even things at 52-52. Rudy hit back with a big triple, but Bramos matched him at the other end. Rodriguez netted a foul line extended jumper, but Tsartsaris sank a three to put the Greens ahead. Slaughter countered with a highlight reel slam on Tsartsaris, but Sofo had the last word and made it 59-60 through three quarters.
Fourth quarter: Panathinaikos keeps it close, Madrid finishes strong
Big Sofo dunked and Bramos nailed another three as the Greens extended their lead to 61-65 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Slaughter carried Los Blancos back with free throws and a bucket on the offensive glass. Jaycee Carroll put the hosts ahead with a free throw and Mirotic took a sweet pass from Rodriguez to make it 68-65. Ukic stretched on a drive to score, but Llull bettered him with a basket-plus-foul. Diamantidis and Carroll traded baskets to get to 73-69 midway through the fourth quarter. Sofo threw down a two-handed slam, but the momentum remained with the hosts after Mirotic hit a jumper, drew a foul and drained the bonus shot. Then a Fernandez steal led to a Carroll dunk. Diamantidis kept Panathinaikos alive from the line and Sofo made it a 4-point game with a free throw of his own. Fernandez brough the crowd to their feet with a tough, one-legged, fadeaway jumper to make it 81-74 with less than a minute and a half to go. Bramos missed a three and time started to run out on the visitors. Ukic made it a 5-point game with 38.7 seconds to play and Maciulis got it to 4 with 19.8 remaining, but the Greens got no closer and Rudy sealed the win with a slam in the closing seconds.
Friday, October 12, 2012